Tuesday, October 11, 2016

AMI Playbook: Continuing to Deliver Customer Value with AMI

As AMI continues to optimize the modern grid, our September 15th webinar shared key takeaways of electric utilities throughout the country. Caitlyn Hewitt, Product Marketing Manager of Oracle-Opower, with Nathan Shannon of SGCC, presented how leading energy providers are leveraging software while connecting smart devices to the grid and the consumers who use it.

As Hewitt explained, the AMI deployments of today have changed significantly from the wave of smart meter deployments kicked off with the ARRA grants in 2009. In the past seven years, the industry has realized several AMI consumer benefits including the ability to offer consumers access to their data online, and better outage notification & communications. As of 2016 more than half of Americans have a smart meter with access to a range of valuable AMI-powered programs and services from demand response to dynamic rates and DERs.

As the smart grid begins to live up to its full potential, utilities can transform their communications by helping connect customers to a broad spectrum of services and capture the full benefit of their AMI investment.

On the webinar we learned six key takeaways to a successful and customer centric AMI rollout:

Takeaway #1: Build Customer Benefits into the Business Case
By focusing 70% of its benefits on the consumer, Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E), responding to Regulators in Maryland, revised their AMI rollout to become the first truly customer centric AMI business case. Ultimately, their customers received $2.50 worth of benefits for every dollar invested and BG&E was heralded for its AMI best practices program.

As stated in SGCC’s recent case study, BGE has been focused on customers from the start. The Maryland utility's strategy was to automatically enroll consumers into their Smart Energy Rewards program. Three years in, unsubscribe rates remain low and over one million customers have saved nearly $28 million.

Takeaway #2: Build Customer Buy-In with Early Education
Hewett explained that smart meter education usually begins post installation. But as exemplified by ConEd, you can’t engage customers too early. As part of the NY REV initiative, ConEd filed their AMI customer engagement rollout more than a year before the first smart meters were installed. The campaign familiarized New Yorkers with the benefits of REV: clean, affordable, resilient power.

Shannon shared that ComEd is also doing an excellent job “early educating” its customers. The Chicago based utility goes so far as to hand out information by sending ice cream trucks around its neighborhoods to entice people to enjoy the treats while educating them about their smart meter program.

Takeaway 3: Innovate Faster with Cloud-Based Data Management
As Legacy IT systems weren’t built to handle the amount of data smart meters create, utilities are turning to the cloud just as other industries have. Many utility technologies are taking to the Cloud such as meter data management (MDM), big data analytics, and distribution automation. Nearly 90% of utility executives say they’re using or plan to use the Cloud for MDM within the next three years.

Takeaway #4: Use AMI Data for Targeted Marketing
Hewitt explained that AMI data offers unprecedented visibility into the way people use energy but it takes powerful analytics to understand it. Some of us shut off lights when we leave for the day. Others crank up the AC mid-afternoon. How does a utility uncover energy usage patterns for hundreds of thousands of customers and put them to use for marketing? By combining detailed energy data along multiple dimensions such as time, geography, and weather to tease out key similarities and differences.

Shannon shared how SGCC has created a segmentation framework that takes into account customers’ attitudes about energy. SGCC found that learning customers’ preferences is another step utilities can take to make the most of AMI data.

In the case of ComEd, Oracle/Opower implemented its machine learning algorithms to discover distinct, recurring energy usage patterns identifying five “load curve archetypes for”. ComEd was able to determine which customers were better suited for DR programs. So, by pairing AMI insights with targeted marketing, utilities can drive program participation.

Takeaway #5: Design Rates that Balance Grid and Customer Needs
Once the meter data is flowing, new rate structures can be created that encourages customers to use energy when it’s less expensive and save energy when it’s not.

In the case of SMUD, Hewitt explained how dynamic rates weren’t just a tool to balance supply and demand. They were also a chance to raise customer satisfaction. Building on a DOE grant, SMUD began the SmartPricing Options Pilot Program during summers of 2012- 2013. Targeting a shift in peak summer demand from 4-7 PM, SMUD offered three separate pricing plans. After the 2-year pilot, SMUD cut peak demand on hot summer days by as much as 25% for the opt-in CPP plan. Overall, more than 95% of its customers were satisfied with their new rates.

Takeaway #6: Create a Better Experience with the New Data About Your Customers
In closing, Hewitt focused on how AMI data improves the customer experience by offering lasting benefits years after its rollout.

Citing Amazon and Uber, she explained how their use of cutting edge software – rather than phone and paper - has delivered deeper, more personalized online experiences.

Like Amazon’s data capabilities, AMI data can provide personalized, meaningful insights that increase customer satisfaction and self-service.

SGCC is here to bring you ideas and information on the latest breakthroughs in modern grid advancements. Please join us for our next event, Beyond the Grid: Connecting Tomorrow’s Consumers, on Monday January 30th 2017, in San Diego.